When to start worrying about 'eating for running'?

Hi all, so the more I look the more confusing/contradicting the multitude of psuedo-scienctific 'research' on running is.

My current 'huh?' is about eating before/after a run. Lots of articles talk about it, but none (that I have found) quantify _when_ you need to concern yourself with this.

I am consolidating post-c25k by running a pretty slow and easy (not according to my fr235 which thinks I need medical assistance ;-)) 5K every other day. It takes around 40 minutes and I haven't particularly concerned myself with when - morning, mid-afternoon, evening etc. and I haven't experienced any problems.

For example, I am just about to go run now and then have lunch when I get back (usual marmite on brown-seeded bread and a couple of bits of fruit).

So, at what distance/time/effort level should I start planning my eating regime. I don't want to fall into a problem because of ignorance so I am wary of 'whatever _feels_ right'...

EDIT: I should say that I tend to drink a pint of water and a _big_ pint of coffee/tea every couple of hours anyway, so no worries about hydration.

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49 Replies

  • When you are running for more than an hour.  Some say 90 minutes before you need sustenance.  You'll find out what suits you in time ☺  You need to eat before you run out of energy completely, and some like to start fuelling up early to prevent that.  

  • I think (uneducated opinion) whether you have excess weight will also make a difference, I cycled 20 km home today after dropping off my van at garage ,on an empty stomach, just some zero carb sports water drink. That took 1 hr and 20 minutes, and I could have gone longer energy wise( not leg wise) I think if I didn't have some fat reserves I probably would have needed fuel at an earlier point. I can manage my 5 k's and I did 6 k yesterday on an empty stomach too so maybe 90 minutes for me? I also eat low carb all the time so I think 'the wall' is maybe breached much earlier but its easier to carry on longer. (personal uneducated opinion again) I think we are all different too which is why opinion varies.

  • If you have  low carb diet your body will be much more adapted to using fat stores for fuel. 'Normal' runners (ie those on standard carb-heavy diets) will have systems entirely dependent on glycogen reserves for fuel, which is why carb-fuelled marathon runners hit the wall at 20 miles or so, as their glycogen is depleted and they are unable to call on ketogenic resources as they do not have the adaptation, hence the sugar gels and jelly babies and so on that everyone stuffs from 2 hrs on.

    In terms of adapting your everyday diet to support your running needs, I'm not sure there is any specific need to, although that depends on what the starting point of your diet is. Apart from the culinary grotesquery that is Marmite, it sounds like your eating habits are fairly healthy. If you were living on ready meals, Ginsters and cardboard it would be a good idea to clean up your diet, but that would be true in general rather than specific to running.

    I think it is always a good idea to track one's food, if not all the time, then for at least a month every few months in My Fitness Pal or any of the other food tracking apps, to get a clear picture of what you actually do eat, how much  of it you eat, when you eat it and what your relative protein/carb/fat intakes are. As obsessive as I am over my food, I am always surprised by the results, and always come away with a few good tweaks to my diet.

  • I'm with you on the marmite comment!

  • Marmite is what they scrape out of those weird toe shoes.

  • First time I've seriously disagreed with you Rig, love it

  • Thanks Rignold - I take it you aren't coming to my Vibrams and Marmite party? ;-)

    I did use MFP for 4 months as part of the NHS weight loss program, religiously tracking everything, weighing out each portion of spinach etc. but it all got a bit tedious. I should start again I suppose, but it certainly informed my diet now - basically, veggies: YES, fruit: Yes, processed: no if you can help it, saturated fat No, palm/coconut oil (which is everywhere) NO etc.

    My diet isn't great, but it is good I think - I aim for about 2000 calories (ignoring workout calories).

  • I don't tend to weigh much for MFP, just eyeball it, and I don't use it as a way of controlling my diet, so much as to take a snapshot every few months to make sure I am eating what I think I am eating (invariably, as tight as I control it, I'm not).

    Veggies definitiely. Fruit: in moderation - it is a lot of sugar,

    Saturated fat I eat a lot of and coconut oil, neither of which are bad for you That whole dietary fat = bodyfat myth has been preprly exploded now. Palm oil is crappy stuff and terrible for the environment so best steered clear of.

    My advice is always make sure you have some protein and some fibrous vegetable at every meal and you cant go too far wrong.

  • I'm with you on this too, saturated fats have been the 'bad guys' for long enough but are better than hydrogenated and artificially manufactured fats. I don't eat fruit as I am low carb and still a bit overweight but have successfully lost over 6 stone with saturated fats being in my diet(no palm oil ) if and when I reach my target weight I will add in a little fruit cautiously but veg and berries are good for now. Re the fruit being sugary, in the zoo world we are finding modern varieties of fruits are way higher than the fruit most primates even frugivorous lemurs etc. eat, and that our veg is closer in composition to the fruits they evolved to eat. Many zoo's are now switching to a mainly veg based diet with great results in weight maintenance and in behaviour.

  • To make this more relevant for me - what do hippos and panda bears eat? (ho ho)

  • haha I'm not sure a grass and bamboo diet would make a better runner!

  • Im going to stand up for Marmite - I blimmin' love the stuff !

    Cant say the same for the Vibrams though Yatesy . Each to their own, whats one mans wotsit is another mans thingy, sorry I cant remember the saying is , Brain fog  :-) xxx

  • Marmite is delish. Toast dripping with butter and spread with marmite is a treat. My daughter won't touch the stuff but we know its value Popsy

  • It's certainly true that you either love it or hate it, I lurve marmite! Baldy can't bear to be in the same room while I'm eating it, weird since he loves beer and they're made from the same stuff aren't they? They smell the same to me anyway...I think not eating marmite makes your hair fall out, and eating it gives you a big mop of curls....At least I know I will never find someone has eaten it all and put the empty jar back...He he, I got a special bucket size jar to last me until I get back to Blighty in the Autumn!

  • Ha ha Curly , Love it !!! Ha ha :-)

    So that's why Baldy Boy is a baldy, -  he never ate Marmite !

    A Bucket of Marmite !!! - Flippin' gorgeous ! :-) xxx

  • And 6 x 240 tea bags...can't manage without those two!

    Do you remember the advert? "Marmite, the growing up spread!" My mother took it to heart, I ate gallons of the stuff...

    My Mum was on the Stork advert BTW, a useless comment in the circumstances sorry lol!..... and now I'm off for me fish and chips, proper English fish and chips from the once a month van....

  • 6 x 240 Teabags wouldn't last very long in my house, I think I would have to treble that amount ha ha :-)

    I don't remember that advert ? I remember the Stork adverts though, Oooh I could've seen your Mum !

    Oh Fish and dirks Curly, lovely . Enjoy your tea :-) xxx

  • So none of this is helping my healthy eating - thanks a bunch :-)

  • Good heavens Curly, I think we must be related somewhere down the line. I love marmite, have it every morning. Tea I drink it all the time. I would be quite miserable if I couldnt get my daily tea fix :)  just a dash of milk and no sugar thankyou :)

  • Oh yes! And the spoon must stand up, or it's or strong enough!

  •  Finally found some on sale here in Asian shops. Also sometimes in upmarket supermarkets in the section "exotic sauces" . No wonder I could never find it!

  • I had never heard of it before coming to the UK.

    I tried it once, over five years and a half ago... a mistake I'm determined not to repeat. 😝

  • Certainly do Bops , it is truly a thing of wonder :-) xxx

  • I love marmite but can't eat it now.  😢 didn't know it contained tanin which gave me a really bad migraine when I was pregnant with my daughter.  Couldn't get enough of it on toast. 

  • Second only to home-made peanut butter :-).

  • Now that I can't stand yuk!!

  • have never had home made , but love meridian (100% peanuts) peanut butter, sadly I managed to eat a whole pound of it in two days so am not allowing it in the house for a few weeks! I may have got the key to managing my weight but the lack of restraint is always there, just more manageable these days!

  • You should try it - really cheap and easy:

     - raw unsalted peanuts

     - soak them for 30 minutes

     - dab them dry, sprinkle a tiny bit of salt

     - roast them in the oven for 30 minutes under 180

     - take out zero to a quarter for 'crunchy' peanut butter

    - put them straight into the blender, hot from the oven (breaks down the oils apparently) 

     - mix them on high

     - and keep going....

     - and keep going....

     - and keep going...

     - stop to scrape the sides down and keep going...


     - stop when it looks like the right consistency for you

     - stick in the whole nuts you took out 

     - put it on for about 10-20 seconds

     - enjoy :-).

    It lasts about a week in the fridge (if you can resist it!). You can also add a tiny drizzle of honey, paprika etc. if you wish.

    Lovely, cheap, simple and no additives other than what you put in

  • sounds great! But lasting a week really wouldn't happen!

  • Once Curlygurly2  has finished with her bucket of marmite I intend to borrow it to make up a bucket of peanut butter. That might last a week.

  • Oh cheers for that yatesy, I'm going to try it!

  • You can of course, in the same way make cashew butter, almond butter etc. We also make a homemade Paleo  'Nutella' hazelnut and chocolate spread, which is by dint of beng Paleo, sugarfree (refined sugarfree), dairyfree and free of that palm oil and therefore suitable for baby Orang-Utans.

  • I have never managed almond butter - after 30 odd-minutes I gave up! Almond milk was trivial to make, but butter always eluded me.

    I tend to have a few almonds and sunflower seeds on my 2 shredded wheat at breakfast and also as a post-run snack.

    Cashew nuts - now that I could eat them all day!

  • Cashew butter sounds good. Very good in fact. Ok I'm having a go at this nut butter thing tomorrow.

  • That sounds Fantasic will have to try that. Thank you. 

  • I love Peanut Butter too ! In fact , theres nowt much I don't like ! :-) xxx

  • Thanks you lot! I am trying to lose weight but now I am off to the toaster to make some delicious Marmite on toast Yummy 😍

  • No toast!

  • Same!!

  • Looking at all these replies, particularly the 'fish and chip' ones, I think the only answer to my original question for you lot is 'NOW' :-).

  • I think fish and chips might be an official running food, there is a running group near me who run up a hill once a month or so near here, but only on a Monday when the fish and chip van is in the car park!

  • Haven't found good fish 'n chips here yet but once in a while we drive up to the Baltic coast and get a fix. They sell it pretty much straight off the boat. Along the pier some of the fishing boats have been converted into fish and chip shops. You get them in a cone with remoulade as sauce. It isn't quite the same but it is also good. And you get to eat them seaside style - quickly whilst being stalked by beady eyed gutsy seagulls. It is too far for me to run as yet though!

  • You need to put the banana in the marmite sandwich, even better when toasted!

    Seriously, someone on this forum said it's OK to eat a banana immediately before a run which I did yesterday without any issues. Otherwise it's best to wait at least 2 hours after eating a light meal before going out. Others mention Jelly Babies and protein drinks as a during run snack but I don't think this is necessary until you run for over 90 minutes. It seems a very individual choice so my best advice is try it different ways and see what works for you. 

  • I could inhale Jelly Babies - I love them! It isn't a proper holiday unless I have a bag of JBs to consume on the drive there.

    With a massive amount of will power though, I can admit that for my 40min 5K runs I probably don't need them unfortunately :-(.

    I do like bananas though, 2 to 3 a day sometimes. In marmite though? You need help :-).

  • go off now and fill your mind with visions of carrots, spinach and tofu.

  • You could alternatively skip straight to the Athlete diet, which is simplicity itself: Steamed chicken breast and steamed broccoli. Six times daily. Kale smoothies adlib in between. Gallon of water.

  • Please tell me you are joking 😝

  • I ended up on a similar diet (+ shredded wheat and other veg) and without being too gross it certainly improved the speed for some movements :-).

  • Some strong feelings on marmite and peanut butter....  An American friend used to say, "don't yuk my yum" . Respecting  each other's food choices is the right thing to do.... Unless it's marmite LOL!! 

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